The new Ministry of Ethnic Affairs, created last year but largely unstaffed until now, will begin to fill positions in state and regional departments, according to U Chit Zaw Lin, an officer in the ministry’s Ethnic Rights Protection Department. Despite a parliamentary mandate, the ministry has been underfunded and understaffed since its creation after the 2015 election.
“In the whole ministry, we have only been able to appoint about a quarter of the staff required by our organizational structure, so there is much to do. We’re working with other ministries to fill our positions, and the Union government is also discussing the issue,” U Chit Zaw Lin said.
The Ministry of Ethnic Affairs was created by the 2015 National Race Protection Law, passed by the newly elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government. The original law offered few specifics about implementing the new ministry and staff are currently waiting for another law to fill in the gaps. The ministry has two departments, the Ethnic Literature and Culture Department and the Ethnic Rights Protection department.
Dr. Aung Naing Oo, the deputy speaker of the Mon State Hluttaw (parliament), said “These departments are new, and I would them to be strong. I would like to mention that our Hluttaw has already formed an ethnic affairs committee, which the new ethnic affairs departments should cooperate with.”
The Ethnic Rights Protection Law called for the creation of branch departments of the Union Ministry of Ethnic Affairs in Myanmar’s 14 states and regions. The Mon State Ethnic Affairs branch departments opened on March 1, 2017.